Definition: A virtual or physical representation of an accomplishment. They are representative of progress and are a way to brag indirectly. These are often viewed as rewards in and of themselves.
Game Application: Ribbons are the achievements in Farmville which are released when different tasks are completed. The ribbons can be yellow, white, red and blue depending on the level achieved. The achievements can be posted to the player's timeline for all friends to see.
Non-Game Context Application: When someone completes a course, a diploma is given to the person. This is perceived as an achievement and a reward. The diploma winner fees recognized and important, which is key to increase brand loyalty.
Definition: Game mechanic which compels players to take action, but they can only do so after or during a specific interval of time. The player usually gets rewarded for taking the action, or is given the opportunity to gain the rewards.
Game Application: A few quests in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion can be undertaken only during a certain time in the game world.
Non-Game Context Application: 'Happy Hour' in pubs. Customers receive a free drink when required action (buying a drink) is taken during a specific time. As a result, a sale has already been made and there is high probability that the customer will come back again.
Definition: Game mechanic which causes the player to be punished or lose an advantage if a specific set of instructions is not obeyed. It can be used to induce time based action. It can also be used to direct the progress in the game.
Game Application: Initiating offensive action in Neverwinter Nights 2 will cause an invisible player to lose the advantage of invisibility. This will cause the player to avoid getting into combat situations while in invisibility mode.
Non-Game Context Application: Points on a driver's license. Drivers must follow the rules and drive safely to avoid losing their points. This leads to a more conscious driving style.
4. Behavioral Contrast
Definition: Changing player response to one situation based on a changed circumstances in a separate situation.
Game Application: In Diablo 2, the player can break barrels and overturn stones to get either of the three results – positive (gold or items), negative (explosion or spawned enemy), neutral (nothing happens). The result is decided randomly. But, let us say the first 10 barrels broken result in more negative and neutral results as compared to overturning the first 10 stones. The player will perceive the stones as being more beneficial than the barrels, and will also avoid barrels to not get damaged. This happens even though both results were decided randomly.
Non-Game Context Application: A kid is rewarded with a small candy when he hugs someone. The kid is happy and continues to hug (and receive candies). On the fourth hug the reward is changed to chocolate cake. The kid is delighted. But, next time the reward changes back to a candy. Now, the kid is unhappy as well as angry because he didnt get the chocolate cake. He throws away the candy and he refuses to hug anymore.
This game mechanic teachers us that if the objective is to drive behavior in one direction the subject's actions must be incentivised by a constant reward and let subject's expectations to do the job.
5. Behavioral Momentum
Definition: Leveraging the tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing by rewarding repetitive and consistent action.
Game Application: In Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, high level in the speechcraft skill results in avoiding combat and getting information quickly. A player who is not a combat type character will keep increasing this skill because it rewards his actions.
Non-Game Context Application: Check out this video to learn how to maximize the potential of behavioral momentum mechanic.
6. Blissful Productivity
Definition: Enticing players to keep playing by making them believe that their actions are resulting in massive results, the primary among them being happiness. Thus, it makes the player feel as if playing the game has a positive impact. For this game mechanic to work, players must be given a clear, meaningful goal, actionable steps, and proof of completion before they are exposed to a new, more challenging goal.
Game Application: In World of Warcraft it takes over 300 hours for a player to reach the highest level which is when most players believe that the real fun begins. All the hard work pales in comparison to the pleasure that comes from achieving the tasks.
Non-Game Context Application: Blissful productivity is a game mechanic which is mainly used in the context of work. Hard work is required to accomplish a goal. But, once achieved, the sense of accomplishment and the pride of helping the company succeed, makes the employee happy and generates a feeling of wanting to work harder to achieve the next goal. For this mechanic to be effective, it is important to set up clear goals and explain how to achieve them. It is advisable to have a recognition mechanism in place to increase motivation for pursuing the next goal.
7. Cascading Information Theory
Definition: It states that information should be released in small increments to aid level-appropriate understanding at each point during a game narrative. It keeps the players playing the game if the main narrative is good enough to hold their interest.
Game Application: In Darksiders, the main premise of the story unfolds slowly with each accomplished main mission, as does the weapon power ups and new combat moves.
Non-Game Context Application: Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code (and all other good mystery books) uses this game mechanic to create suspense and hold the interest of the reader. Releasing information in small increments keeps the reader hooked to the story, and keeps him coming back for more.
8. Chain Schedules
Definition: Rewarding players for exceeding a series of contingencies. Often, one of these contingencies is time based. Unlocking individual contingencies one by one is usually viewed by the players as a reward in itself.
Game Application: In Dead Space, one of the levels has the player entering a zero gravity environment which lacks oxygen. The player has limited time (until the oxygen supply runs out) to enter and complete an objective in this environment.
Non-Game Context Application: This game mechanic is used in schools to promote kids to the next grade. They have to pass in all the subjects to move on to the next higher grade. But, they get the satisfaction of passing each subject before even getting the final reward, ie, getting promoted to the next grade.
9. Communal Discovery
Definition: Engaging the whole community (or a group) to play the game together to achieve the objective or over the contingency. Immensely viral and very fun.
Game Application: Online RPGs like World Of Warcraft are built on this game mechanic. The objective is to explore new areas and overcomes enemies as a group.
Non-Game Context Application: NanoDoc is an online platform that allows bioengineers and to collaboratively design new nanoparticle strategies aimed towards the treatment of cancer. Participants develop a health rivalry between themselves, as well as a strong commitment to the common cause. Also, it gives the participants hope of achieving their goal, which they would have been able to do on their own.
10. Companion Gaming
Definition: Integrating the elements of gameplay across multiple gaming platforms. This leads to players playing games from the same franchise simultaneously on two or more platforms.
Game Application: Candy Crush Saga (and similar games) can be played on computers as well as on smartphones and tablets, usually with certain adaptations.
Non-Game Context Application: An excellent example of this game mechanic is Google Drive, the cloud sharing service from Google. It allows users to store their documents, spreadsheets, and other files on a cloud server.
Definition: Giving players limited time to complete a challenge. This creates significantly increasing activity levels until time runs out, which is a forced extinction.
Game Application: In Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, one of the missions is to eliminate a man on horseback while suspended from a hang glider. There is a time limit before the man escapes and the mission is considered a failure.
Non-Game Context Application: Limited period discount offers require buyers to make their purchases within a week (or a specified time frame) in order to get the discounted prices. Scarcity is a great way to drive behavior and make people take action at or during a particular time. In a world with so many options to choose from, it is easy to forget about one particular product if this game mechanic is not applied.
Definition: Using penalty or loss of reward to admit the player to take action that the player would not have done under normal circumstances.
Game Application: In Crysis, getting hit by enemy bullets causes the player to lose the nanosuit armor ability, resulting in rapid loss of health for the player. This results in the player not rushing into combat situations without scouting for places to take cover.
Non-Game Context Application: The Catholic Church has a system of Confession as a way to disappeared of sins and be forgiven. The devotees believe that they will not attain heaven if they do not confess.
13. Endless Games
Definition: Games that do not have an explicit end. Usually applicable to casual games that can refresh their content or games.
Game Application: Angry Birds keeps on adding stages and different variants (Rio, Star Wars) of the game to keep players playing the same game.
Non-Game Context Application: Recertification for emissions for old cars. No matter how old the cars get, they will not be allowed to run on the road unless they obtain this recertification every year. This lasts until the owner decides to sell or scrap the car.
Definition: Using voyeurism to generate a desire in the player to get the same rewards or results as another player.
Game Application: Randomly generated items in the game Diablo 2, keep the player playing the same game in the hopes of getting a rare item that another player mentioned in the forums.
Non-Game Context Application: A good way to drive behavior using envy would be to ask customers to take a certain action (usually, buy something) in order to participate in a lucky draw. The picture of the winner (along with the reward) is then promoted on Facebook, website, etc. Other customers will see the reward that they may have won if they had participated. This causes them to participate in the next promotion, leading to increase in sales.
15. Epic Meaning
Definition: Used to motivate players by generating a belief that they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves. This mechanic is highly effective in making the players loyal to the game.
Game Application: The game Spore is based on the promise of handing power and responsibility to the player of evolving from a single cell organism into a sentient species competing with others for universal domination.
Non-Game Context Application: Scientology makes good use of this game mechanic. The Church's ultimate goal is spiritual enlightenment and freedom for everyone. In order to achieve this, members must make their way to become a Thethan. Usually, members motivate friends and family to do the same as they believe in the epic meaning of creating a better world.
Definition: Guiding the player to stop taking certain actions after a point in the game, by eliminating the prior mechanic of rewarding the same set of actions. It is used to train players to skill up and abandon low value actions, increasing their involvement in the game.
Game Application: Experience gain system, as employed in Diablo 2, gives fixed experience points for killing low level enemies. It is useful when the player is starting a new game as the relative experience gain is considerable. But, as the player gains more experience, the small increase in the experience gain causes the player to avoid hunting down low level enemies.
Non-Game Context Application: This mechanic can be used to train high performing employees for a managerial role. Earlier, the employee used to get praise and bonuses for completing the work or project assigned to him. Now, he must not be awarded for the same set of actions (extinction). The new system must guide him to delegate work and assign job roles to his subordinates, by rewarding him for accomplishing the new goals.
17. Free Lunch
Definition: Making the player feel like they have received something for free. The perception of the player must be that the work has been done by someone else and they get to reap the benefits.
Game Application: Picking up items for the player's character, in Diablo 2, after a group of enemies has been killed by other players and they have left behind some loot.
Non-Game Context Application: Ramen restaurants use this mechanic with great success. Every time you order a ramen soup, you earn a stamp on a card. After getting the card stamped ten times, you get a free ramen to promote customer loyalty.
18. Fun Once, Fun Always
Definition: Making a simple action enjoyable to repeat. The only drawback is the limit on the total enjoyment derived from it over a period of time.
Game Application: In FIFA series of games, it's easy for the player to execute a step over move with the football. But, it does not take away from the fun factor even if the move is repeated again and again.
Non-Game Context Application: This game mechanic is applicable to hobbies and their popularity. For example, I love scuba diving and I do it because it is fun. It keeps me engaged and I get the same amount of pleasure no matter how many times I dive.
19. Interval Reward Schedules
Definition: Rewarding players after a certain amount of time has passed. It can be of 2 types:
Fixed Interval Reward Schedule
Providing a reward only after a fixed amount of time. This tends to create low engagement after completing the set of required actions, and then gradually increasing activity until the reward is given, followed by another period of low engagement.
Game Application: In Farmville, the player has to wait for 30 minutes after planting the crops before they appear on the player's farm.
Non-Game Context Application: Organizations give employees bonuses once or twice a year (at almost the same time), irrespective of the performance of employees.
Variable Interval Reward Schedule
The player is rewarded after an unspecified interval of time. This causes a near constant level of activity as opposed to the sharp peaks and dips in the fixed interval reward schedule.
Game Application: In Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, certain missions can only be attempted when a non-playable character approaches the player at a certain location. These meetings take place at a random time (in the game world), which keeps the player playing the game in the hope of initiating such missions.
Non-Game Context Application: A boss dropping by his employee's desk a few times through the day, to check his progress, is an example of a variable-interval schedule. Check-ins occurs at unpredictable times, so the employee never knows when they might happen. This keeps the employee working throughout the day.
Definition: Increasing player participation in the game by virtue of randomly rewarding participants. It creates a high level of engagement for the all players involved, especially when combined with other engagement mechanisms.
Game Application: The combat system of Neverwinter Nights is based on random roll of a digital dice. The player's actions cause damage to the enemy based on a random output of the dice roll, amplified by a few multipliers. The player keeps on executing combat actions, never knowing which particular action will result in successfully killing the enemy.
Non-Game Context Application: Lucky draws are based on lottery game mechanic and have been proved to increase client database and sales, especially if they are designed to grow viral. As an example, to participate in a lucky draw offering a free trip to the Maldives, one must purchase a national flight within the week, and like the Facebook page. For any friends invited via Facebook he gets one more entry in the lucky draw.
Definition: Generating a feeling of positive sustained connection to the game, leading to increased levels of engagement and satisfaction gained from the accomplishment. Often reinforced with a visual representation.
Game Application: In Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, the player can become part of certain guilds by completing challenges, and is rewarded by granting a rank within the guild as well as a specific specific item, weapon, or armor.
Non-Game Context Application: TripAdvisor provides unbiased reviews, articles, recommendations and opinions on hotels. This encourages the hotels those to keep improving their service to get more positive reviews from customers. It works both ways – TripAdvisor provides unbiased reviews, articles, recommendations and opinions on TripAdvisor, TripAdvisor provides unbiased reviews, articles, recommendations and opinions on TripAdvisor.
22. Meta Game
Definition: A game which exists within the main game. They have to be discovered by the player through repeated exploration, which makes it appealing to only fans of the game. They are immensely satisfying to players who find them as they gain huge rewards.
Game Application: Unlocking all nine hidden life upgrades in Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within, gives the player access to the Water Sword, the most powerful weapon in the game.
Non-Game Context Application: Google doodles. People who know about the doodle feel important by having information that only a few have. This provides engagement in a dull task like searching, and increases loyalty among Google users.
Definition: Amplifying or subduing the immediate result of the player's actions based on defined or random game elements. Decreasing modifiers increase the challenge level of the game and increasing modifiers act as a rewards for player actions.
Game Application: In Batman: Arkham City, the damage eliminated by Batman's attacks are doubled after stringing together a series of defined attacks.
Non-Game Context Application: In betting, the concept of handicap bets are used to balance the advantage of a very strong competitor playing against a weak competitor. This ensures that safe bets (favoring the strong side) have less chance to earn big rewards. While the risky bet has very little chance of winning, it will also pay off huge rewards.
Definition: Making the player feel like being in charge of something, and giving him the incentive to take responsibility for it.
Game Application: In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, the player is driven to lead the Assassins by assigning him the role of Mentor within the game and sending other game characters to the player, for seeking advice.
Non-Game Context Application: Effective project managers use this mechanic to break up a large project. They assign responsibility for successful completion of each part to different subordinates. This way, employees will feel important and valued and they will take full responsibility which will lead to the best results possible.
Definition: Developing the player's feeling of attachment to the game by increasing ownership level and acknowledging accomplishments. This leads to an overall increase in the player's pride while playing the game.
Game Application: Diablo 2 lets players name their characters as well as customizing the names of specially crafted items. The level up rewards offered by time spent as well as repeated actions are extremely desirable. All this has lead to a raving fan base for the game.
Non-Game Context Application: Continued from # 27 above. Ownership of a part of a project makes individuals take pride in their work. They know that they are a fundamental part in the successful completion of the project and will make the extra effort to achieve the best results possible.
Definition: Keeping selected information out of the public domain. Depending on the player it can either be a motivator or demotivator for taking action.
Game Application: Social games on Facebook publish progress on the player's timeline. Some people may want this information to be visible to the public, increasing the visibility of the game, prompting more action. Others might not want the game to post to their timeline. If not given a choice they may choose to not play the game.
Non-Game Context Application: Mobile phones give people the option of hiding their number when they call someone. It is useful in cases when they do not want the person they called to call back.
27. Progression Dynamic
Definition: Measuring and displaying the progress of a player by tracking completion of challenges as per the game type.
Game Application: Progress bar in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, which is filled up as the player gains experience through combat, dialogue, exploration etc., leading to levelling up after a defined experience score. Progression can also be displayed as percentage of game completed, like in the game Batman: Arkham City.
Non-Game Context Application: Progression bars are very common nowdays. It helps the user to know how long is going to take to complete a process or what percentage of completion has been achieved. Good examples are profile completion bar in LinkedIn and Facebook. It is a powerful tool as an incomplete bar motivates the user to take the necessary steps to complete it.
28. Ratio Reward Schedules
Definition: Rewarding the player after it takes a defined number of actions in the game. This can be of 2 types:
Fixed Ratio Reward Schedules
Rewarding the player only after a fixed number of actions have been taken or challenges have been overcome. This causes a high level of activity as the reward gets closer, and then drops until the next reward comes along.
Game Application: Every hundred coins the player collects in Mario grants one additional life. This causes the player to collect coins with increased frequency as he gets closer to the 100 mark.
Non-Game Context Application: A bonus is given to factory employees when they produce 100 units of a product. They will work harder when they get closer to 100 units, in order to get the bonus quickly. This can lead to low quality work. Once the money is in their pockets, they will work with less speed until they get closer to 100 units again.
Variable Ratio Reward Schedule
Rewarding players after they have taken an approximate number of actions. This number can be roughly estimated by the player, but is never known accurately. This causes a moderate and constant level of activity. Unlike the fixed ratio rewards schedule, the sharp increases in activity level are absent, so is the drop after getting the reward.
Game Application: In Diablo 2, the player gets level ups after gaining experience by killing enemies. But, the player does not know exactly how many hits will kill an enemy or how many enemies to kill to get a level up.
Non-Game Context Application: Appraisal system for workplaces. Employees keep working at high levels through the year, in the hopes of getting a good appraisal result. Although, in most cases, they are not sure of what exact set of actions will help in getting a good result.
29. Real-time vs Delayed Mechanics
Definition: Displaying information in real time, ie, live vs displaying information after player actions have been completed. Real time display can be used to prompt the player to take instant action. Delayed information can be used to prompt the player to repeat a set of actions or to reinforce a sense of achievement. Both are effective in increasing engagement levels.
Game Application: In Need For Speed: Shift, real time rankings in a sprint type race can keep the player engaged in trying to move up the rankings. But, in time trial mode the focus shifts to perfecting the racing style, so the result displayed after the race is completed becomes the focus.
Non-Game Context Application: In soccer matches, coaches are on the side lines giving instructions in real time. This motivates players to take action and play better to contribute to the team's win. After the match, players receive feedback from the coach which can be used to improve performance in the next match.
30. Reward Schedules
Definition: A time or action based delivery system which rewards a player for playing the game. Three main parts exist in a reward schedule:
The main obstacle or challenge that the player must overcome at different points in the game. Contingencies are one of the key elements in every game.
Player action to overcome the contingency posed by the game.
Rewarding the player if the action taken results in successfully exceeding the contingency and satisfies the game's conditions.
Game Application: In Call Of Duty 2, tanks pose a major obstacle in completing missions (contingency). The player is expected to use sticky explosive to disable the tanks (response). This allows the player to proceed further in the game, and is acknowledged by the other squad members in the form of in-game dialogue as well as enabling progress in the game (reinforcement).
Non-Game Context Application: An MBA student must get his diploma by passing all the modules (contingency). He studies and completes the required presentations and exam for the first module (response), and he gets good marks (reinforcer). This motivates him to work hard for the second module, and subsequently the next modules, until he reaches his goal.
31. Shell Game
Definition: Prompting the player to take action based on rules which the player believes to be true. But, in reality, the player is Deceived into taking action which extremely results in a win for the game operator.
Game Application: In the first Assassin's Creed game the player performances execution for the guild leader of the assassins believing that it will bring an end to injustice and war caused by the corrupt templars. Towards the end of the game, the player finds out that all actions were directed by the guild leader to forward his own selfish interests.
Non-Game Context Application: Shell game mechanic name Refer to the dishonest betting game played on the streets of big cities. The game requires three shells, and a small, round ball. The person perpetrating the swindle begins the game by placing the ball under one of the shells, then quickly shuffles the shells around. Once done shuffling, the operator takes bets from the audience on the location of the pea. The audience is told that if a player bets and guesses correctly, the player will win back double their bet; otherwise the players lose their money. However, in the hands of a skilled operator, it is not possible for the game to be won, unless the operator wants the player to win.
32. Social Fabric of Games
Definition: Playing games together, as a team or unit in a cooperative gameplay scenario Promotes trust and bonding within the group of players. This increases the social ties within the group and promotes more cooperative gameplay.
Game Application: Cooperative gameplay and game based community elements are the reason for the popularity of the MMORPGs like World Of Warcraft, which has 7.7 million subscribers.
Non-Game Context Application: Alcoholics Anonymous is organized around this game mechanic. The probability to take action (stay away from drinking) increases when the subject is part of a big group. The secret to success is to create a community around the intended product, service, or actions.
Definition: Rank or level of the player with respect to the other players in the game. The objective of increasing status within the game community is powerful motivator to keep playing the game.
Game Application: Battlefield 3 leaderboards for top score, highest playtime, and most number of kills. This leads to loyal players striving to get into the top rankings, which will cause a rise in their status within the game playing community.
Non-Game Context Application: Visa Classic, Visa Gold, Visa Platinum. Each Visa card is linked to a certain credit limit, and therefore, social status. Visa Platinum grants the owner a higher status and special privileges with respect other Visa clients. As a result, Platinum clients will become more loyal to Visa.
34. Urgent Optimism
Definition: Creating a scenario for the player where the hope of an epic win or getting to the desired result is always possible, which provides motivation for the player to take action to achieve this result. It is more of a philosophy behind gaming than a sensible game mechanic.
Game Application: In the game Crysis, the player discovers that the world is under threat by aliens and that the player is in the unique position to save the world. This unique situation as well as the tools in the player's arsenal makes the gameplay absolutely irresistible and thoroughly enjoyable.
Non-Game Context Application: This game mechanic is broadly used in politics. The act of casting a vote is tied in with the changes and reforms that the winning party will bring about. This transforms the simple act of casting the vote into what benefits the voter can get by voting for a particular party. This was used with great success during Obama's Yes, We Can campaign.
35. Viral Game Mechanics
Definition: Creating engagement and activity in the game by participation of multiple players. More number of players means more fun and engagement.
Game Application: Social games reward players for sharing game achievements on Facebook and getting friends to join the game.
Non-Game Context Application: Amway uses a multi level marketing approach to sell products. In other words, spreading the benefits of the brand to friends and family leads to more commission based on their sales. If they want to earn money as well, they must convince their friends to buy the products. This viral formula has been proven successful for many companies (Malaleuca, Isagenix).